May 25, 2024 14 min read

Book 'em Danno

Book 'em Danno
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Friends of Branded!

Happy Saturday and I hope you had a great week!

Back on April 22nd, 2023, for the very first time in the H^2, I admitted that despite Branded’s deep desire to play nice in the sandbox, we feel a responsibility to “call ‘em like we see ‘em,” and that means that we’ve got to call out an ugly baby when it's presented to us.

A secondary market reservation platform is in the crib.

I wrote in that week’s edition, that when something looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and walks like a duck, sometimes, it’s a duck! If you’re interested, you can check out the April 22nd edition of the H^2 here: To Reserve or Not To Reserve, That Is The Question

Branded’s highest priority is deliver strong returns to our LPs and we do that by identifying, vetting, investing, and helping to accelerate operator-centric emerging technology & innovation companies. To be crystal clear, this means emerging tech & innovation companies that are on the side of operators and are committed to helping them improve efficiencies, optimize margins, and get butts in seats!

What inspired that week’s theme for the Top of the Fold was an article that appeared in the New York Times about an emerging ResTech company that promised The Hot Reservation (If You’re Willing to Pay).

I wrote then and remain committed to being a free markets person, so while I expressed my disdain for these secondary market reservation platforms (that’s right, disdain: according to, as in to look upon or treat with contempt; despise; scorn. Synonyms: spurn, contemn) that are reselling restaurant reservations without permission from the restaurants, I acknowledged the right these platforms have to do this b/c to my knowledge, these actions weren’t in violation of any laws.

I expressed then and still believe that this strategy of reselling reservations is bad for restaurants, bad for guests that engage with these platforms and will prove costly for the investors that are investing capital in this ugly segment of the market.

Why am I taking a walk down memory lane this week and resurfacing an almost 14-month-old Top of the Fold section of the H^2?

Great question. Thank you for asking.

First, b/c this week it was announced that a group of New York lawmakers are looking to make the act of selling, without permission, restaurant reservations a criminal offense. I don’t know if any of these lawmakers were shutout of a reservation they deeply wanted or got frustrated by the idea of paying scalpers a fee to access a table, but Assemblymember Alex Bores, Senator Nathalia Fernandez and the New York Restaurant Association announced the advancement of the Restaurant Reservation Anti-Piracy Act. This Act aims to protect restaurants from third-party hospitality technology platforms by requiring them to obtain permission and consent from operators BEFORE they can market and resell reservations on behalf of restaurants.

The bill’s purpose is wonderfully direct and straightforward: "Require online third-party food service reservation apps to obtain consent from a food service establishment prior to such app marketing or making a seating reservation at such food service establishment." If the bill is enacted, third-party reservation platforms will be prohibited from "listing, advertising, promoting, or selling reservations for a food service establishment."

As long as we’re taking a look back, let's go back a little further.

I’m old enough to remember when third party delivery platforms added restaurants to their marketplace offering without permission or consent from the venues. I also distinctly remember when these same deliver companies would create URLs that included the names of the restaurants on their platform (yes, and again, without permission).

Despite the fact that these tech platforms could out SEO (search engine optimization) results to ensure that their standard URLs would appear first in any search; in order to stack the deck even more in their favor, they would add the name of the restaurant to their URL.

Duke’s Original Roadhouse was the name of one Branded’s restaurants and our URL was, but a DSP elected to create the URLs and Add the DSPs expertise in SEO and their financial might and guess what URLs would appear at the top of the Google search? For our guests, they might use one of the DSPs URLs with our name in it and believe they were ordering directly from us. But I digress, now back to secondary market reservations. (That "but I digress" moment was brought to you by Bite Kiosk and specifically included for its CEO, Brandon Barton, who expressed his enjoyment of my moments of digression). 😊

Again, I believe in free markets and similar to these other issues restaurant operators face when third-party platforms work to insert themselves into the relationship between the guest and the restaurant, Branded’s strategy is to continue working with technology platforms that would help the operators fight back and try to balance the playing field.

To be nothing less than clear, the restaurants won’t win against the intermediaries by guilting guests to use first-party or white-label platforms (meaning the restaurant’s own delivery platform). They will win by offering a better experience, one that includes personalization, loyalty, rewards, and limited offerings (although, if you think using guilt will work, I’m prepared to give that a go too). 😊

This without consent of the operator’s secondary reservation market, however, seems more offensive to me than other technology platforms that act as intermediaries and have squeezed themselves in between the operator and the operator’s guests. To me, this is akin to stealing (as in the act of taking the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice, thank you again, but of course the act of reselling reservations is not stealing b/c it’s not violating any law. At least it’s not violating any law YET!

It was about a month ago that The New Yorker published an article Why You Can’t Get a Restaurant Reservation and how bots, mercenaries, and table scalpers have turned the restaurant reservation system inside out. This article by Adam Iscoe is a great piece on how difficult securing reservations in NYC have become.

I’m sure there are readers of this H^2 that are rubbing their thumb and index finger together which is the gesture for playing the smallest violin in fake sympathy for the troubles of those that are unable or having trouble securing difficult to get reservations.

That might be fair, but let’s look at this issue from a different point of view. Try not to think of this secondary market issue from the guest’s perspective or at least don’t put them in the pole position. Think of the owners and employees of the venues that are being scalped and are losing control of their dining rooms. I’ll go further, think of the spike in cancelations and no-shows that have increased as a result of this salacious secondary market activity and how these operators are losing money as a result of these scalpers.

Everyone says the restaurant business is hard and risky. Yes, yes, it is. So, let’s shutdown the platforms that are stealing from them (well, it’s not actually stealing until the bill is passed and becomes law, but then it’s freaking stealing!).

"I'm Just a Bill" is a 1976 Schoolhouse Rock! segment

I wrote “first” above in reference to why I’m revisiting the secondary reservation market issue, so by definition, there needs to be a “second,” right?


Second, on Thursday of this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department is suing Ticketmaster and its owner, Live Nation Entertainment for running an illegal monopoly over live events in the United States. The DOJ is accusing the companies of violating antitrust laws in what could reshape the multibillion-dollar live music and events industry.

Pulled from a New York Times article, “it is time for fans and artists to stop paying the price for Live Nation’s monopoly,” Merrick B. Garland, the attorney general, said on Thursday. “It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster. The American people are ready for it.”

I’m not saying that Taylor Swift is the most powerful person in America right now, but I’m also not saying that she isn’t.

It seems like Ticketmaster’s messing around with Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and infuriating the Swifties was a bridge too far. According to the articles I’ve read, the DOJ’s probe was bolstered by fan (the greatest fans in the world) complaints after a botched rollout for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour (emphasis on ‘greatest fans in the world’ b/c these fans include my wife & daughter, and no one should want to anger the “Swifties”).

You think I’m crazy or spewing nonsense? I’m not the only one that finds the timing of the DOJ’s actions against Ticketmaster & Live Nation to be not-so-coincidental to the issues that took place adversely to the Eras Tour. Just saying. 😊

According to Apex Marketing Group, it was only a few months ago that Taylor Swift generated an equivalent brand value of $331.5mm for the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL.

Now, the excessive ticket pricing associated with her most recent concert tour may now be the genesis of the breaking up of Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

Ms. Swift, respect! 😊

Bringing this Top of the Fold and the issues around secondary market reservation platforms to a close, I acknowledge that the percentage of US restaurants that even take reservations is low. However, I think it’s important to note that the percentage of these reservation-taking restaurants are independently owned is extremely high. These are independent businesses, your local joints, the places in your neighborhood that add personality, flavor, and culture.

I know that President Ronald Reagan famously said, "the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help." As a free markets person, I prefer industry folks should take care of their own business, but I’m happy to see this Restaurant Reservation Anti-Piracy Act coming together and I hope it passes. Sometimes the good guys deserve to be helped and given the opportunity to win. The people that are creating these independent restaurants are trying to bring joy, experiences and interesting dining options to your neighborhood. Yes, I can get behind this new law and will continue to support emerging technology and innovation that helps operators win.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.

It takes a village.

The Branded Team returned from the National Restaurant Association Show this week and it was one for the ages. In addition to seeing some really cool technology and innovation throughout the McCormick Place convention center, catching-up with old friends and making new ones, we also had the good fortune of having 16 of our portfolio companies at the event.

We continue to enjoy using this section of the H^2 to highlight the good work of our portfolio companies as well as share their own thought leadership, content and the news they're making in the industry.

Our friend, partner and the CEO and Co-Founder of Ingest, Daniel Meth, shared an e-mail this week with the Ingest community. I thought it was a wonderful note and one worthy of sharing with all of you.

From Daniel Meth:

Linus wrote the first lines of code for what would become Ingest in early 2018.

At some point during the height of the pandemic - let's call it mid-2020 - a product took shape.

It was precisely 9:39 am on November 1st, 2020, that we rang our first dollar in revenue, thereby establishing Ingest as a bonafide business.

In early 2022, this group of 4 co-founders welcomed a couple of desperately needed colleagues; we had a team, and that team made up a small but mighty company.

For the better part of the past year, we have been working on defining a North Star that we as a team can align on and look to when a decision needs to be made. Something that lets us - and everyone else - know where we stand and what we stand for.

A Brand.

Seth Godin famously compared Nike and Hyatt:

"If Nike opened a hotel, I think we would be able to guess pretty accurately what it would be like. If Hyatt came out with sneakers, we'd have no clue what they'd be like. That's because Hyatt doesn't have a brand - they have a logo."

To have a brand is to make a promise to people. In the spirit of making promises, here are some of the promises of the Ingest brand:

  • we promise to be truthful and transparent - in both data and business practices.
  • we promise never to mislead you.
  • we promise to promptly acknowledge if/when we're wrong.
  • we promise to find the answer when we don't know it.
  • we promise to be a good and faithful partner.

I'm proud to announce the launch of the new Ingest brand.

Branded’s newest portfolio company, Big Chicken isn’t lacking in media attention, but one thing happened this week that deserves attention and there was also an article that caught my eye that I wanted to share.

In Chicago at the Fast Casual Top 100 Movers & Shakers awards gala, our friend & partner, Josh Halpern, the CEO of Big Chicken accepted the top honors award for the 40-unit brand, which was founded in 2018 and has over 340 locations in development.

At the event, Mr. Halpern, who also made this year’s list of Top 25 Fast Casual Executives shared that “2023 was a BIG year for Big Chicken. We more than doubled our open units from 10 to 28, popping up in airports, casinos, sports arenas, cruise ships and even our first corporate headquarters. And, we’re big time excited to continue building partnerships with incredible companies like Amazon, Blue Origin, Hyperlocology, Opus Training, Marqii, Ovation and many more in the year ahead. Our franchisees already have more than 20 leases signed for 2024, and we’re set to explore at least two new international markets before the year is out. There’s so much to celebrate already, but none of it would be possible without our amazing team members and franchisees.

The entire Branded Team feels extremely fortunate to be part of the Big Chicken cap table, to be on this journey with Josh and this amazing team and to call them our friends.

When I talk about the importance of and how it takes a “village,” it’s companies and teams like that one that comprises Big Chicken that makes me feel so strongly about that.

Now, in the spirit of oversharing (as if that's such a thing with me), the article by Adit Pujari from The Sports Rush also caught my eye this week and tells the story of how Mr. Halpern came to join Perry Rogers, Corey Jenkins, and Shaquille O’Neal and become the leader of this emerging quick serve restaurant company.

Big Chicken's CEO is Doing Right By Shaquille O'Neal's Fast-Food Chain's Vision

My favorite quote from the article was Josh’s self-proclaimed midlife crisis. 😊

Most people their midlife crisis, they buy a sports car, or they get a girlfriend or whatever. Me, I became a fast-food chicken guy, working with Shaquille O’Neal, opening restaurants all over the place. That was my midlife crisis.

Yes, this ride Branded is now on with Big Chicken is going to be fast & furious.

As Josh and his partner and Big Chicken’s Senior Vice President of Development and Alliances, Sam Stanovich likes to say, let’s grow!!!

Readers of the Hospitality Headline, that are interested in learning more about Branded’s portfolio companies, investment strategies and future opportunities, are invited to explore becoming part of our Access Hospitality Network.

In today’s episode of Hospitality Hangout, Michael Schatzberg, “The Restaurant Guy,” and Jimmy Frischling, “The Finance Guy,” welcome a titan of the restaurant tech industry, Ben Leventhal. Ben a co-founder of Eater, the visionary, co-founder, and former CEO of Resy, and now the co-founder and CEO of Blackbird Labs.

Throughout his career, Ben has been at the forefront of technological and marketing revolutions in the restaurant industry. Ben’s journey began with Eater, a trailblazing digital media brand dedicated to food culture and enhancing dining experiences, then co-founded Resy, a consumer-facing reservation platform that revolutionized how restaurants and guests interact. Ben shares his latest venture, Blackbird Labs, shaking up the restaurant scene with cutting-edge technology and forging the future in the food service, hospitality, and restaurant industries.

You can tune in on SpotifyAppleAmazoniHeart, or your favorite listening platform!

Digital Restaurant Association 

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Adapting SEO Strategies to Google’s Gemini AI Evolution: A Guide for Content Creators

By: Seth Temko, Solutions Services Partner at Branded Hospitality Ventures

Google Gemini spells double the trouble for traditional SEO strategies. Creators beware.

Welcome to the new IFMA

The future of food-away-from-home is evolving—and so is our membership structure.

Learn More


BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS: The Marketing Executives Group (MEG) 2024

By: Rev Ciancio, Head of Revenue Marketing at Branded Hospitality Ventures

The Marketing Executives Group (AKA The MEG) just concluded in Chicago. This is an amazing show. They do everything right. Great food. Good content. Great networking. Every other trade show organizer needs to experience MEG.

About ACG New York

Founded in 1954, ACG is the premier M&A deal-making community with a mission of driving middle-market growth. ACG’s global network operates within 61 local markets worldwide and comprises more than 100,000 middle market professionals who invest in, own and advise growing companies. ACG provides events, conferences, bespoke meetings, deal-sourcing forums, unique experiences, educational seminars, and numerous benefits to non-members and members alike.

Learn More


🔍 Got Questions? We've Got Answers! 🌟

Satisfy your thirst for knowledge? Look no further! It's time to dive into our brand-new segment: "Ask The Headline"! 🎉

📅 We'll be answering YOUR questions every week. And here's the best part: you can choose to stay anonymous or receive a fabulous shout-out when we feature your question!

That’s it for today!

See you next week, (about the) same bat-time, same bat-channel.

It takes a village!

Jimmy Frischling
Branded Hospitality Ventures
235 Park Ave South, 4th Fl | New York, NY 10003

Branded Hospitality Ventures ("Branded") is an investment and advisory platform at the intersection of food service, technology, innovation and capital. As experienced hospitality owners and operators, Branded brings value to its portfolio companies through investment, strategic counsel, and its deep industry expertise and connections.

Learn more about Branded here: Branded At-A-Glance

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